‘Monarch’ Ep. 2 Recap: Who Is in the Body Bag? [Spoilers Alert]
Episode 2 of Monarch on FOX begins and ends in the same place. Three Monarch months after the events that dominated the premiere earlier this month, Albie Roman (played by Trace Adkins) is finishing up a job that involves a shovel, a deep hole and a body wrapped in a tarp.
This time however ... well, we'll kindly take a beat to let you know that this recap of the second episode of the country music drama will include some major spoilers. Ep. 2 of Monarch ended with another big twist before the timeline flash-forwarded to Albie's dark deed. If you're not here for spoilers or you missed Ep. 1, enjoy this recap.
The Roman patriarch's business along a dark country road wasn't resolved in the first few minutes of Tuesday night's (Sept. 20) episode. Viewers just learn that the police are onto him, and then we travel back to a time when Dottie Cantrell Roman (Susan Sarandon) has just died by suicide. It was actually assisted suicide, as her daughter Nicky (Anna Friel) helped, but no one except the other daughter Gigi (Beth Ditto) knows that. They fight about it, but eventually find something resembling trust.
Brother Luke Roman suspects something isn't as it should be, however, because his mother was told she'd have months to live after her terminal cancer diagnosis, and she seemed pretty chipper one night prior. Midway through the episode, he pockets his suspicions, but before bed, he empties his pockets.
We'll get there. First, the central premise of Ep. 2, and don't feel guilty if you think it sounds familiar. The Romans (country music's first family on Monarch) are executing a funeral planned by matriarch Dottie Cantrell Roman, and she was specific. The songs, the celebrities appearing, the feuds avenged (Shania Twain gets stuck singing a fictional song called "Dixie Kitten" at the funeral) and the deceased hovering throughout the celebratory concert — country music literally just went through this when Naomi Judd died in April (all except the stick-it-to-Shania part, which is fresh for Monarch). Dottie even appears via hologram to sing a song with her sister, a new character named Aunt Nelly who stirred the pot earlier in the ep. The song chosen is "Love Can Build a Bridge," a real country hit by the Judds. In fact, Wynonna Judd performed it during CMT's public memorial for Naomi Judd.
A few people made the connection between the Judds and Romans after the premiere, but now it's unavoidable, even if unintentional. Finding a way to recognize the parallel may have been impossible, given a structured filming schedule, but for a show that weaves between reality (covers of real country songs) and imaginary (in Monarch, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" is a hit for Dottie Roman Cantrell and Twain is still upset about it), creativity is no issue. A few lines of dialogue recognizing the existence of the Judds would go a long way to providing resolution.
Ep. 2 of Monarch is titled "There Can Only Be One Queen," but it could be called "A Tenuous Trust," because that's what viewers get. Gigi forgives her sister (or at least forgets that she helped her mother) to save their relationship, but later pokes at her when Luke (Josha Sasse) begins probing. Albie gut-punches his son after he's more or less accused of murdering his wife, but then tells him — in his own way — that he loves him. A new, more emotional side to Adkins' acting is revealed here.
Finally, as we mentioned earlier, Luke agrees to forget his suspicions that cancer did not take his mother, but then realizes the letters that each kid received from their mom during her will reading were actually written by Nicky. All it takes is a quick handwriting analysis and Ep. 3's tension is set up quite nicely.
There was a lot of drama to introduce during Ep. 1, and while Ep. 2 does a fine job of managing it and moving the plot forward, there are more drama trees planted. For instance, the mortician flirts with Luke as she hands him her business card, and viewers watch as Nicky spies her brother making out with her sister's wife. Personal assistant Earl (Kevin Cahoon) has the most appropriate reaction to everything going on, and it's in him we find a little bit of ourselves. The flamboyant character is at this point the show's moral compass.
A sprinkling of some of the other things we learned during Ep. 2 of Monarch: Albie has struck his son before, Nicky's children are adopted, the show's theme song "The Card You Gamble" is going to become part of the action as during Ep. 2 Nicky's character writes it, and Albie is in big trouble. (Caitlyn Smith sings the original, by the way).
The real end of this episode finds the police banging on the door of the Roman household, moments after Albie buries what looks to be a body. Given the tension between Luke and Albie, and given what Luke seems hellbent on uncovering, there's a subtle insinuation that father killed son and buried the body. Right now, that's just a conspiracy theory, but the police may be there to sort it all out. Time will tell, but if that is Luke Roman in the ditch, then Yellowstone's Dutton family can't compete with the dark violence of these Romans.